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Silver Sluggers a mix of old and new

Silver Sluggers a mix of old and new

The Silver Slugger Awards distributed early this evening went to a perfect mix of the old guard and new guard, as players with established reputations and others starting to earn theirs shared honors as the top offensive performers at their positions and in their league.

The American League and National League honor rolls chosen include eight incumbents from the 2008 teams, led by Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter and Phillies second baseman Chase Utley, who both claimed their fourth Silver Sluggers.

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But the 18 selections -- including a pitcher in the NL and the DH in the AL -- match that with eight first-timers.

The sport evidently turned a new corner at third base, the only position where both young winners are new to Silver Slugger fame -- Ryan Zimmerman of the Nationals and Tampa Bay's Evan Longoria.

However, the most refreshing newcomer is Angels outfielder Torii Hunter, who earned his first Silver Slugger at 35, and two days after bagging his ninth consecutive AL Gold Glove for fielding excellence.

Hunter was joined in scoring that vaunted double by seven others, making this a unique era of players who can do it all. They included Zimmerman and Longoria, as well as NL outfielder Matt Kemp, and first baseman Mark Teixeira, catcher Joe Mauer, outfielder Ichiro Suzuki and Jeter in the AL.

Since 1980, winners of the Silver Slugger Award have been chosen by votes of Major League managers and coaches, prohibited from selecting players on their own teams.

2009 AL SILVER SLUGGER AWARDS
The Silver Slugger Awards are given to the players deemed to be the best offensive performers at their positions, voted on by Major League managers and coaches.
POS PLAYER HR RBI AVG
1B M. Teixeira, Yankees 39 122 .292
2B Aaron Hill, Blue Jays 36 108 .286
3B Evan Longoria, Rays 33 113 .281
SS Derek Jeter, Yankees 18 66 .334
OF Jason Bay, Red Sox 36 119 .267
OF Torii Hunter, Angels 22 90 .299
OF Ichiro Suzuki, Mariners 11 46 .352
C Joe Mauer, Twins 28 96 .365
DH Adam Lind, Blue Jays 35 114 .305

Jeter's Silver Slugger had to be considered a foregone conclusion, given that during the just-concluded World Series he received the 2009 AL Hank Aaron Award, emblematic of the top offensive performer in the entire league.

The New York captain excelled not with the long ball or even in run production -- with modest totals of 18 homers and 66 RBIs -- but responded to being asked to lead off by hitting .334, scoring 107 runs and posting 200-plus hits for the seventh time.

Others repeating the honor they received following the 2008 season were all National Leaguers: first baseman Albert Pujols, shortstop Hanley Ramirez, catcher Brian McCann, outfielder Ryan Braun and pitcher Carlos Zambrano.

For Teixeira, however, the Silver Slugger was his third, but the first since 2005.

Suzuki also earned his third Silver Slugger, returning to the squad after a one-year absence to give the outfield corps a bit more venerable look.

Dodgers teammates Kemp and Andre Ethier are both first-time winners in the NL, while Boston's Jason Bay joined Hunter as a first-timer in the AL outfield, and second baseman Aaron Hill and DH Adam Lind as other rookies on the AL list.

NL SILVER SLUGGER AWARDS
POS PLAYER HR RBI AVG
1B A. Pujols, Cardinals 47 135 .327
2B Chase Utley, Phillies 31 93 .282
3B R. Zimmerman, Nats 33 106 .292
SS H. Ramirez, Marlins 24 106 .342
OF Ryan Braun, Brewers 32 114 .320
OF Andre Ethier, Dodgers 31 106 .272
OF Matt Kemp, Dodgers 26 101 .297
C Brian McCann, Braves 21 94 .281
P C. Zambrano, Cubs 4 11 .217

Bay had spent his first 5 1/2 seasons in the NL -- prior to being acquired by the Red Sox in trade last July -- without being selected for a Silver Slugger, but was finally recognized after his fourth straight season with 30-plus home runs and 100-plus RBIs.

Toronto matched the Dodgers and the Yankees with twin Silver Sluggers, but the recognition for the Blue Jays is exceptional for two reasons.

Unlike the other two clubs, Toronto did not reach the postseason; the Blue Jays, in fact, did not even reach the .500 level.

Yet, not only did Hill and Lind tender compelling performances, they did so after years in long shadows.

In his fifth season with the Blue Jays, his fourth season as their regular second baseman and one season after a concussion disabled him for most of 2008, Hill vaulted over his career bests with 36 homers and 108 RBIs.

Similarly, Lind, who actually also saw considerable action as an outfielder, exceeded his prior career totals (in 2 1/2 seasons and 195 games) with 46 doubles, 35 homers and 114 RBIs.

Zambrano defended his 2008 Silver Slugger despite a 120-point drop in his batting average, from .337 to .217 -- obviously still very decent for the pitching fraternity. He also had four home runs and drove in 11 runs.

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Change for a Nickel. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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